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On the struggle with technology.

Published March 5, 2016 by mandileighbean

I absolutely loathe my dependence on technology.

I know this may seem like quite the hypocritical statement as I am using my computer and the internet and social media to update my narcissistic, self-indulgent blog, but hear me out. I want to be a writer, so in this digital age of selfies and tweets and whatnot, I’m going to have to adapt and get on board or die (metaphorically speaking, of course). If people take to Google and social media for book recommendations, I have to be on Google and social media. It’s a concession I can live with to help build my writing career. It’s almost unavoidable.

So let me rephrase my earlier statement: I absolutely loathe my dependence on technology in my personal life.

My phone is nearly always in my hand. If I’m not texting (but hardly anyone ever messages me because I physically interact with those who matter most, which is certainly a good thing) or checking e-mail (does anything important ever really come via email?), then I’m using Safari to check Facebook (I deleted the app to make a statement, but I found a way to be on the social media site constantly anyway). I’m scrolling and scrolling and scrolling on Instagram and Twitter, looking for likes, re-tweets, mentions, whatever. When there’s nothing satisfying there, I play Bubble Mania, Candy Crush or Tetris. I’m always looking down, disengaged and only pretending to listen to the authentic life happening all around me because I’m obsessed with this piece of technology and all the artificiality that goes along with it.

It’s my greatest weakness, and what I dislike about myself the most.

In my opinion (so please only take it for whatever it may be worth), social media only reinforces the crippling need for outside validation that seems to plague the human race. I recently traveled to Philadelphia to see David Cook in concert with my sister, and I took pictures. That in itself would be harmless if the intention had been true, if I had honestly taken pictures to create memories. However, creating and saving and storing memories was only part of my motivation. I wanted to take those pictures so I could upload them to Instagram and Facebook so I could count the likes and comments so I could feel cool and hip and modern, so I could feel like I belonged at the metaphorical watering hole of this super progressive, hyper intellectual, digital age. How stupid. How vain. Why do I need everyone to know where I am and what I am doing at all times? Why do I think everyone wants to know where I am and what I am doing at all times? If I put everything out there all the time, there’s no mystery left. I’m essentially robbing people the opportunity of getting to know me because I’ve created this false persona using technology and social media which could easily satisfy anyone even remotely curious. I’ve created an alternate version of myself for the masses and have rendered myself lonelier than ever. What kind of masochistic nonsense is that?

A wonderful colleague recently told me she’d read a few of my blog entries. She complimented me on my writing (yay!), but said I broke her heart (oh no!). She told me I was too hard on myself, and I know this to be true. Self-deprecation is usually the only humor I can handle, and I am constantly screaming at myself for all of the awkward, dumb, harmful, and lazy behaviors I engage in on a daily basis. Reaching for my phone and idling instead of reaching for a book to expand my mind fulfills all of those categories. It’s awkward to sit in a room – any room at anytime, anywhere – full of wonderfully interesting humans and ignore all of them to go on a phone. It’s dumb to not expand one’s mind and perception through reading, writing or conversation and instead retreat to multicolored candies that need crushing. It’s harmful because it perpetuates the idea that self-love is indulgent and ugly, and that worth is truly determined by society and the media and this new social media. We are all forced to become our own PR people and it’s weird and gross, and I dislike it more and more the more I think about it. It’s lazy because all I need is my thumb and a pair of glazed-over eyes.

Now, I’m not saying I’ll go completely off the grid by any means. Family and friends and loved ones can be scattered from one end of the globe to the other, so it is important to stay connected. I love that my aunt in Pennsylvania likes the memes I share about weight loss, and I love that she likes the sexy pictures of Elvis I find and post from time to time. I love that my cousins in Alabama can be brought up to speed with my life by a few pictures here and there, and vice versa. My coworker is going to the Big Apple today to see “The Crucible” on Broadway, and I’m looking forward to pictures and her review. My cousin is currently overseas serving his country, so we need the social media to keep in touch, to share messages of love and support. These are harmless human connections that are beautiful and wonderful.

But it’s all about moderation, right? It’s all about keeping our minds right and prioritizing.

The best part about the David Cook concert was not the blurry pictures I posted on Instagram a few hours later. It was spending time with my sister. It was shouting out the word “bipartisan” when David was struggling to find it, him thanking me for doing so, and my sister rolling her eyes because I’m “such an English teacher.” What a beautiful moment to feel validated about my passion and career. I did all of that without my phone. When my former phone was destroyed last month and I was without a phone for a few days, I survived. The world did not end. I was okay.

I did lose thousands of pictures, though. That was my own fault because I never backed them up using my computer. I assumed those treasured images would always be on that phone, because I tricked myself into believing technology is infallible and perfect and the answer to every question I ever had. That is simply not true, and I just feel that if I remind myself of that, I’ll regain faith in nature and people and all that surrounds me.

I fell in love with a great friend, but he didn’t feel the same way, and the friendship has since changed and is beginning to fade. Some of the pictures I lost were of the absolute greatest day we ever spent together. This makes me sad for many valid reasons. However, I was inspired to write this post (but really, it’s become a rant, hasn’t it? My bad) because in mourning the loss of the digital images that I never printed (what a metaphor for the relationship, huh? I’ll save that for my next novel), I realized that I felt I needed the pictures because I didn’t trust myself, didn’t trust my own memories and feelings. Those pictures became a kind of talisman that helped me pretend the friendship wasn’t fading, that I was right about everything, so look, look everyone! Look how we’re smiling with our arms around each other! I’m not crazy! There was something there, and I can prove it!

Why should I have to? I don’t have to, and that’s my point. I want to reduce my dependence on technology and social media in my personal life because I need to love myself and my life in reality. I don’t need the approval of others, and I don’t need to know everything about everyone because then what will our conversations be made of? What will I discover in intimate moments?

When I’m at the dentist’s office, or waiting for friends at a bar, I’ll pull out my journal or a book, but never my phone. That’s a new resolution. That’s a promise to myself.

I’ll post to promote my writing and my writing career, but not to start some drama or for attention or to start a pity party. That’s a new resolution. That’s a promise to myself.

And now, I’ll post those pictures of me and my sister and David Cook, since I invited you in.

Enjoy the weekend. xoxo

 

 

On paranoia and vindication.

Published February 3, 2014 by mandileighbean

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! I was rooting for Denver because I adore the Manning family, but alas; it seems neither brother can finish the job this season.

If you’re in the Toms River area on Tuesday, February 18th, please stop by the Toms River Library for a discussion and book signing with me!  It’s begins at 7:00PM and will last until 8:00PM!

I also just want to add that I believe the most romantic notion(? idea? not entirely sure which word I want to use) is two people thinking about one another without the other knowing.  It’s nice to think another is thinking of you in that unique way.  It’s beautiful when it’s organic and not manufactured or fished for, but the kicker is the object of attention may never know.  It is within that beautiful frustration the romance lies, in my humble opinion.  Just throwing that out there, I guess.  Forgive me, but it had been some time since I was random.

Enjoy this week’s prompt!

 

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #12: “A man sneezes painfully.  He looks in his handkerchief and finds something that looks like a microchip.”

spy

ACHOO!  The sneeze rocked Baxter’s body, sending him backwards before he aggressively shot forward, trying to right himself.  It was a vicious and unrelenting sneeze.  He kept his eyes closed for a moment or two, as if it would help steady his breathing and help his bodily functions return to normal.  “Wow,” he said, and opened his eyes wide to ensure the world had neither stopped nor drastically changed while he had been rendered incapacitated by the sneeze.  He shook his head to clear it.  He pulled the handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit and blew his nose.  “Damn,” Baxter said.  “That really hurt.”

 

“The sneeze?  Man up,” Alex smiled.  The smile wasn’t entirely genuine.  It was more queasy and nervous than anything else.  In fact, Alex’s normally bright and expressive eyes were clouded over and shifty.  Baxter had just been about to comment on the physical change which also seemed to alter Alex’s winning personality.  He was sweaty and trying to look everywhere all at once.  Baxter was just about to comment on the paranoid behavior when the sneeze had interrupted and completely knocked him flat.  He couldn’t remember what he had been thinking, or what he had been discussing with Alex.  He finished blowing his nose with a flourish, but did not return the handkerchief to the breast pocket.  He leaned closer to Alex and lifted his chin so his friend would be able to peer deep within Baxter’s nasal cavities.  “Is it bleeding?”

 

Alex pretended to look for about a second.  “No, dude, you’re fine; hey, do you know how long that van’s been there?”

 

“What van?”

 

“The dark blue one without windows; behind me and to the left, on the corner.”

 

Baxter shrugged.  He was more concerned with his aching nose.  He crossed his eyes to see the blurred bridge of it, and was rubbing it tenderly with the tips of his fingers.  “I didn’t see anything.  Did you see anything fly out of my nose?  I feel all cut up inside; I’ve never sneezed like that before.”

 

Alex stole a glance behind him.  “I’m sorry.  I guess … Baxter, I think that van is following me.”

 

Baxter nodded, but was intently focused on the handkerchief gripped in his hand.  Would Alex care if he opened it up and inspected whatever had been so readily rejected by his body?  It was a less than savory habit, admittedly, but Baxter really swore something had come shooting out.  How else could he explain the pain?  He was completely convinced that the sneeze had not been normal and had half a mind to march himself to the emergency room for a professional opinion.  “What makes you think you’re being followed?”  Baxter continued the odd conversation to be polite to one of his oldest friends, and to distract him so he could inspect the handkerchief.

 

“I’ve been seeing it everywhere, Baxter.  When I go to work, it’s always a car or two behind me.  When I go to the gym, it’s always parked on the opposite side of the lot.  When I’m in my apartment, I catch a glimpse of it from the window, down in the street.  It’s been going on for weeks.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Baxter asked, encouraging his friend to continue.  He had discreetly placed the handkerchief on the table and was slowly peeling back the corner that was folded over.

 

“And,” Alex licked his lips and found that his mouth had gone dry, “I think my phone’s been tapped.  There’s all this weird clicking and buzzing when I’m on the phone.  Sometimes the phone rings and there’s no one there, just silence, but they won’t hang up until I do.”

 

“They don’t hang up?” Alex repeated lamely, to prove he was listening despite the fact that he was not paying attention.  With the one corner unfolded, he only had to stretch it out to get a good look at the specimen, which was probably only snot, but why had it been so painful?

 

Alex sighed and covered his face with tremulous, pale hands.  “I haven’t been sleeping well,” he admitted, feeling stupid and weak.  “It’s really starting to get to me, man.  I don’t know what to do or who to talk to.”

 

“What is that?” Baxter breathed.  He had indeed pulled the handkerchief taught and found an undeniable but incredibly small metallic-looking square.  He grimaced as he reached out to pinch it between his fingers because it was slimy.  He held it up to the afternoon sunlight and examined it more closely with squinted eyes.  Along the one edge were spaces in the hard, plastic covering, like it was missing piece from some kind of motherboard.

 

“What?  What do you see?”  Alex was turning every which way in his seat but always returning to lock his gaze upon the van.

 

“I think it’s a microchip.”  Baxter placed the item back on the handkerchief.  “Doesn’t that look like a microchip?  How the hell did that get up my nose?”

 

Alex stood up suddenly.  “They’ve gotten to you.”

 

Baxter had leaned down over what had come flying from his nose.  “Who?  Microsoft?  Apple?” he laughed.

 

Alex took two halting steps backwards.  “Oh God, it’s happening.  I knew it would.  I told them I wouldn’t say anything but they didn’t believe me.”

 

Baxter looked up, finally alerted by his friend’s panicked tone and nonsensical rambling.  “Alex, sit down, man.  You’re making me nervous.”

 

“We need to go,” Alex insisted, shaking his head.  “We need to leave.”

 

“Are you high?” Baxter asked, making light of what was rapidly becoming a bizarre and terrifying situation.  “Why don’t –“

 

At that moment, the van came speeding towards them only to skid to a halt beside them along the curb.  The world then seemed to slow down to an impossible lack of speed; Alex turned to Baxter and braced himself, like he was about to sprint and make a mad dash for freedom.  As the tails of his jacket fanned out, the van door slid open and two masked men, dressed all in black, scrambled out.  If Baxter had been able to move, he would have had time to get a decent lead, would most likely have been able to escape, but he was nothing more than a laughable cartoon character; his lower half moved frantically but no real progress was made.  The men descended upon him, knocking over the table the men had been seated at and sending Baxter to the floor, the chair coming with him.  In the time it took Baxter to fling the chair from him and sit up, there was only squealing tires and nothing more.

 

Alex was gone.  Baxter looked around and only saw wide-eyed, open-mouthed and deep breathing witnesses.

van

On video games.

Published August 1, 2012 by mandileighbean

I slept late today, despite going to bed at a decent hour.  I woke up feeling useless and felt that way for the remainder of the day.  Clearly, I could have done something productive or even just gone outside, but all I did was sat at this very computer and work on my music library in iTunes.  My library is very, very close to being as complete as it can be, considering I download new songs every day.  It’s not much, and I felt bad about being so aimless and tedious in the day’s activity, but I found a way to rationalize my behavior (as I always do).

Music quite literally is my muse.  When I sit down to write, and I’m talking every single time, I have music playing in the background.  I am pretty sure I mentioned in a previous entry that Her Beautiful Monster basically wrote itself after I listened to “Runs In The Family” by Amanda Palmer a couple of thousands of times.  I’ve developed an inspirational playlist for what I hope to become my second novel and I listen to it constantly; I even have it playing on repeat as I sleep.  A major song on that list is “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen, and that song also plays a role in Her Beautiful Monster.

For me as a writer, I believe music plays such a large role in my creative process because I think in images.  I see my stories as a movie in my head, in scenes, and every movie needs a killer soundtrack.  For today’s entry, I am going to share with you lyrics to the song “No Place to Hide” by Jace Everett.  The song was featured in an episode of “True Blood” last season and is epic (Everett also sings the theme song to the show, “Bad Things”).  The song is also what I was listening to as I wrote tonight’s prompt.

No Place to Hide

Jace Everett

There’s no place to hide down here
There’s no place to hide down here
Went to the rock, got on my knees
I heard the angels weep for me
No place to hide down here

Now where’s my brother’s keeper?
Who holds the flaming sword?
The field had turned to crimson
Thought I hid it from the Lord
But somewhere east of Eden
His blood cried out from the ground
I hung my head in shame where I was found

There’s no place to hide down here
No place to hide down here
Went to the rock, got on my knees
I heard the angels weep from me
No place to hide down here

Now I’m a wandering stranger
A scar for a name
A mark so deep and black my children’s children feel the shame
Oh merciful and gracious Lord, when shall I be released?
Was blood that has condemned me; only blood can set me free

There’s no place to hide down here
No place to hide down here
Went to the rock, got on my knees
I heard the angels weep for me
No place to hide down here
No, there’s no place to hide down here

There’s no place to hide down here

PROMPT: “You don’t have enough points, sir.”

PIECE: “You don’t have enough points, sir,” said a mechanical voice from somewhere behind Ben.  He whirled around, fast enough to make his head spin, and met an elderly gentleman who seemed spry enough and reminded him of a butler.  Ben cleared his throat and tried to calm his breathing.  Other than trying to regain his composure, Ben did nothing except stare at the old man whom he had assumed was the one that spoke.  As if he could read Ben’s mind and wanted to assuage Ben’s uncertainty, the old man said again, “You don’t have enough points, sir.”

“Enough points for what?” Ben asked, clearly confused.

“You do not have enough points to continue on, sir.”  The old man’s tone of voice was exacting, intimating there would be no room for debate and any pleas for charity or mercy would fall upon deaf ears.  Ben was going to try anyway.

“But I have to get through those large, wooden doors.  My lady is on the other side, in grave danger, and she is waiting for me to come to her rescue,” he argued.  He motioned to the doors before him with gloved hands.  The path led straight through the doors and continued on the other side, and the instructions given to Ben by the old, gypsy woman in the forest at the beginning of the journey had been explicit; do not stray from the path as it will lead to your love.  The gypsy also mentioned that time was of the essence and Ben needed to get a move on.  He had had enough of a delay already, between fighting off the robbers in the woods and evading the monstrous beasts that were chasing him.

“Well, sir, if I may be frank, you should have thought about points before making it this far.”  The old man’s face was impassive, almost impossibly serious.  How could any human being be so stern, so completely devoid of emotion or compassion?  It was then that it dawned on Ben that this man may not be a man at all.

“But I don’t understand,” Ben persisted.  “How was I supposed to know how many points a task was worth?  I fought my way here – do you understand?  I was nearly killed by thieves on countless occasions and as I was surviving, the awful, hideous monsters pursuing me crept closer and closer.  I have spilled blood and shed some of my own.  I have seen terror and have not flinched.  I have earned the right to advance, so let me through!”

The old man did not seem impressed.  He crossed his thin arms over his frail chest and walked around Ben to stand before the wooden doors.  “You may not pass.  You don’t have enough points, sir.”

Ben stopped thinking and his right hand immediately found the hilt of his sword.  What was stopping him from running the old man through?  How many points would Ben earn if he were to slit the old man upon and spit upon the intenstines that fell to the dusty ground?  A demonic smile tried to fit itself upon Ben’s mouth, but he came to his senses before it could fully materialize.  If he were to kill this old man, what would he become?  Ben reasoned he would be no better than the thieves he had killed, no better than the monsters coming after him, and no better than the cowards who had taken his lady love hostage.  He needed a different approach.  He sighed, suddenly weary, and asked the old man, “How can I get more points?”

The old man smiled.

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